Business Highlights

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CVS Caremark plans to stop tobacco products sales

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) — CVS, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, is kicking the habit of selling tobacco products as it continues to shift its focus toward being more of a health care provider.

The company said Wednesday that it will phase out cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco by Oct. 1 in its 7,600 stores nationwide, in a move that will help grow its business that works with doctors, hospitals and others to improve customers’ health.

The move is the latest evidence of a big push in the drugstore industry that has been taking place over several years. Major drugstore chains have been adding in-store clinics and expanding their health care offerings. Their pharmacists deliver flu shots and other immunizations, and their clinics now manage chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes and treat relatively minor problems like sinus infections.

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What is going on with the stock market?

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s a skeptics’ market now. Just three weeks after stocks reached all-time highs, the market has turned volatile and investors have gone from cheerful to suspicious.

They’re worried about reports of slowing growth in the world’s largest economies, disappointed by earnings that never seem good enough and concerned about the stock market’s frequent triple-digit swings.

It isn’t a surprise to most money managers, who expected this year would be rougher after last year’s almost 30-per cent surge. No stock market can go straight up. But the fact that the volatility started so early caught some investors by surprise.

Even with major indexes down 5 per cent or more, there is room for optimism. There’s no sign the economy will backtrack into a stock-killing recession and any big stock-market drop is unlikely to last long.

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Was Microsoft smart to play it safe with CEO pick?

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After compiling a list of more than 100 CEO candidates, Microsoft settled on Satya Nadella a home-grown leader who joined the software maker in the early 1990s. That’s back when Google’s founders were teenagers and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in elementary school.

Tuesday’s hiring of Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO after a five-month search is a safe move that’s likely to be greeted with sighs of relief around the company’s Redmond, Wash. headquarters, industry analysts say. But the methodical, almost predictable decision is likely to reinforce perceptions that Microsoft Corp. is a plodding company reluctant to take risks as it competes against younger rivals who relish going out on a limb.

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Twitter stock dips on user growth worries

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter beat Wall Street’s earnings and revenue expectations in its first quarter as a public company. But investors were looking for even more — including faster user growth — and the company’s stock dipped as much as 12 per cent in after-hours trading Wednesday.

Twitter reported a loss of $511 million, or $1.41 per share, in the October-December quarter. That compares with a loss of $8.7 million, or 7 cents per share, a year earlier. Adjusted earnings were 2 cents per share.

Twitter’s revenue more than doubled to $243 million from $112 million.

Analysts, on average, had expected an adjusted loss of 2 cents per share and revenue of $218.1 million, according to FactSet.

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US stocks end down slightly, but cut losses

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street took a step backward Wednesday. Then a tiny step forward. Then back.

The tentative dance amounted to little change for major U.S. stock indexes, which ended the day just below their prior day’s levels.

For the week, stocks remained down, extending the sharp downturn for the year.

Stocks were down in premarket trading and continued to slide for much of the day. A survey on U.S. hiring did little to ease uncertainty over the health of the American economy.

Many investors remain leery, waiting to see if upcoming economic reports and company earnings will show that the U.S. economic recovery is on track.

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Coca-Cola to let people make its drinks at home

NEW YORK (AP) — Coca-Cola is looking to tap into a new market, with plans to let customers make its sodas and other drinks at home.

The world’s biggest beverage maker said Wednesday that it’s buying a 10 per cent stake in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. for $1.25 billion as part of an agreement to bring its brands into the fast-growing at-home market. Green Mountain is known for its single-serve coffee makers, but is developing a machine for cold drinks as well.

The deal comes as SodaStream makes an aggressive push to make its at-home carbonation machines a fixture in U.S. kitchens. The Israeli company has touted its machines as a cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternative to buying Coke and Pepsi drinks.

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Survey: US companies add 175,000 jobs in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — A private survey shows that businesses added jobs at a modest pace in January, a sign that hiring may have rebounded after a disappointing figure in December.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 175,000 jobs last month. That’s down from 227,000 in December, which was revised lower. But it was much better than the government’s official figure of just 74,000 new jobs in December.

The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government’s more comprehensive report. In December its figure was much higher than the official count.

The job gains in ADP’s report, while lower than in December, are in line with average monthly hiring for the past two years.

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US service sector expands on gain in new orders

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. service companies expanded at a slightly faster pace in January. New orders, sales and hiring showed strength in a sign that financial firms, retailers and information technology companies foresee stronger growth.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Wednesday that its service-sector index rose to 54 from 53 in December. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The improvement points to continued economic gains for the service industry, despite some challenges posed by freezing temperatures and winter storms last month.

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Puerto Rico to cut budgets, renegotiate loans

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rican officials on Wednesday rushed to propose new measures aimed at boosting the island’s economy and appeasing bondholders a day after credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. territory’s debt to junk status.

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said he is renegotiating loans for which payments are now due earlier because of the downgrade, and he has ordered all government agencies to reduce their current budgets 2 per cent, except for the island’s education department. He also submitted legislation to cut an additional $170 million from the current budget, hoping to reduce the deficit to $75 million.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 5.01 points, or 0.03 per cent, to close at 15,440.23 Wednesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 3.56 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 1,751.64. The Nasdaq slipped 19.97 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4,011.55.

Benchmark oil for March delivery rose 19 cents to $97.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, gained 47 cents to $106.25 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Natural gas rose 7 per cent to $5.74 per 1,000 cubic feet in morning trading. That appeared to set off some profit-taking, and the price dropped to $4.99 before closing at $5.03, down 34.5 cents for the day.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex, wholesale gasoline inched up 4 cents to $2.64 a gallon and heating oil added 1 cent to $2.97 a gallon.

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